Jul 052015

I had the pleasure last week of filling a custom order for three books for a repeat buyer. Custom orders always provide me with an opportunity to play with new options—options I may consider adding to future listings in my MisterPenQuin shop on Etsy. This order involved two gratitude journals and one password book. These books were different from most of the other books I make because the recipients were men, not women—no paper-crafted flowers for these covers!

The middle book is for passwords, while the two on either end are gratitude journals.

The middle book is for passwords, while the two on either end are gratitude journals.

When I filled the order, I gave my buyer the option of three different cover layouts. The first option was a single design paper for the entire cover, which is what I normally do before adding embellishments. My buyer didn’t use this layout at all.

Layout Option #1

The second option involved matting a design paper against solid card stock, which is a “must” if you deal with glittery or flocked card stock. The paper has a tendency to crack if you fold it, so it’s best used in its flat form. My buyer chose this option for one of the gratitude journals, but gave me free rein when it came to adding embellishments. I adhered a metal word band from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology collection to the bottom of the front cover, and then added a dimensional clock above it. The clock was made from three different components. The face is a digital design from Optic Illusions, while the clock frame is simply a circle punched from another digital design by Digital Stories. The hands of the clock are actually game spinners from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology collection. I “painted” over the clockface with a Sakura Glaze pen to give the “glass” more of a vintage look and feel. I added white faux stitching to the solid navy card stock strip going across the width of the cover with a Uni-ball Signo broad-tipped pen.

Layout Option #2


The third option involved matting two different papers against solid card stock, as shown below. My buyer gave me complete freedom to do whatever I wanted with the password book. I chose Layout Option 3 for it, except that I didn’t divide the papers exactly as described below. I wanted the cover to look like wallpaper-and-wood paneling in a seaside coffee shop, so I covered the bottom half of the cover with woodgrain paper, and the upper half with ship helms—both of which were digital designs from Digital Stories. I used a black permanent marker to add “nails” to the paneling, and completed the look with a metal word band from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology line.

Layout Option #3


The fourth and final option allowed three different papers to be matted against solid card stock. My buyer choose this layout for the second gratitude journal. I turned the layout upside down because the papers seemed to look better that way. The papers come from the Genuine collection by Authentique. The clock was crafted the same way I described for the first gratitude journal, and once more I used a metal word band from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology collection. I painted the band gold with an Elmer’s Metallic Painters pen, but then deliberately distressed it to give it an aged look.

Layout Option #4


My buyer asked me to add “framed” dedication space to the first page in each book so that she could add a handwritten message. All three of the books also included requested quotations on the inside front cover. The last book in the collection of photos below does not show this quotation because it had not yet been supplied at the time I took these photos, but space was provided for it to be added later.

Inside the Books

I must admit that because of the options I offered my buyer, it was necessary to send messages back and forth more frequently than usual before the order could be confirmed, but the extra communication was not a problem. Overall, this was a fun custom order to fill. In the future, I anticipate I will use the layout options again for custom orders. I may even add an option for a “dedication space” on the first page of all books for a nominal charge. And after completing this order, I am encouraged to add more “gender neutral” items to the Gifts for Guys section in my shop, using some of the ideas from this order.

Custom orders challenge your creativity, so I enjoy them!

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jun 282015

When I was in college, one of my favorite classes was the history of the English language, which incorporated a study of etymology—the history of word origins—and involved many trips to the school library, where I pored through tomes of the Oxford English Dictionary. Much of the OED is now available online to the public for free. I still remember the musty smell of old, rare books, with their tissue-thin pages and tiny typography. Delving into these books was like following a trail: one word led to another, which in turn took you to another volume, and perhaps another. Several hours later, you wondered where the time had gone because it was all so fascinating. Decades later, when my husband and I spent time on Amelia Island off the coast of Florida, my husband was amused by (but understood) how excited I was to discover a copy of The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology.

The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology

In the spirit of fascination—and in memory of my once-upon-a-time study of the English language at Mount Mary College (now Mount Mary University) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I hope you’ll enjoy this post’s word journey, beginning with a question: Have you ever wondered where the expression, “Be mindful of your Ps and Qs,” originated?

According to Fiona McPherson, a Senior Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, in Where does the expression ‘to mind your Ps and Qs’ come from, no one really knows, but there are a lot of theories. “The concept seems reasonable enough—behaving well and not giving offence—but quite what the letters P and Q have to do with this is a little more mysterious,” writes Fiona. She points out that the Oxford English Dictionary devotes an entire entry to the subject. If you’re on your Ps and Qs, in the U.S. this means you’re on your best behavior, and if something is P and Q, it’s of the highest quality. One theory is that P stands for pint and Q stands for quart, with a landlord being reminded not to mix up these terms on a customer’s account. Another theory is that P represents a sailor’s pea coat, and Q is a queue, or pigtail. And there are many other hypotheses about the meanings of P and Q.

On the surface, the word “mindful” does not seem to have as many stories to tell. According to Merriam-Webster, being mindful means to be aware of something important. Mindfulness, in turn, according to the same dictionary, is a state of being aware. Psychology Today expands the definition of mindfulness to the following:

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

In this context, mindfulness can be a technique, possibly meditation, which is encouraged by psychologists and psychiatrists alike to combat depression, anxiety and stress. There’s somewhat of a Buddhist tradition that ties in with this idea, too.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About 18 months ago, TIME magazine published an issue whose cover focused on the practice of mindfulness. To write the article, editor Kate Pickert took a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course originally developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979. According to The Mindful Revolution, Pickert describes how she ate a raisin mindfully, instead of mindlessly—almost meditatively, you might say. “We’re in the midst of a popular obsession with mindfulness,” she wrote, “as the secret to health and happiness—and a growing body of evidence suggests it has clear benefits.”

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness in the context of the course, the Mindful site urges you to download an e-book called Mindful: Taking Time for What Matters. The e-book points out that mindfulness is known by other terms, depending on who practices it. For example, athletes might refer to “being in the zone,” caregivers might refer to “attention” and “empathy,” soldiers might describe “situational awareness,” and business leaders, artists and writers might speak of “flow.”

But mindfulness is also simply living in the moment, taking each day for what it is. It has become to some extent a buzzword these days, with magazines such as the Dutch publication, Flow, and Bella Grace Magazine (published by Stampington & Company) embedding mindfulness in the vision for their publications.

We dreamed of a magazine with which we could explore our love of paper,” write the editors of Flow. “A magazine of unhurried time, all about doing things differently and making new choices. Small happiness, daily life and the beauty of not always managing to be perfect. That is how Flow began. Flow is all about positive psychology, mindfulness, creativity and the beauty of imperfection.”

Flow Magazine

Today Flow released a special issue devoted to mindfulness. You can preview excerpts from this issue HERE, as well as order it.

Bella Grace’s tagline reads “Life’s a Beautiful Journey,” and its editors state, “We believe: An ordinary life can be extraordinary, there is beauty in imperfection, and that magic can be found in the everyday.” If you want to write for the magazine, the editors remind you that they believe:

  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • An ordinary life can be an extraordinary life.
  • There is beauty and magic to be found everywhere.
  • It’s OK to embrace imperfection.
  • Life should be lived with a full heart and open eyes.

Bella Grace Magazine

I have written previously about a current trend, The lure of coloring activity books for adults, which I believe is part of today’s focus on mindfulness. So, too, are all of the books, blogs and Web sites that teach you about Zentangle®, Zen doodling, and “tangles,” which are often variations on both techniques. The publishers of Cloth Paper Scissors, for example, just released their premiere issue of a magazine called Zen Doodle Workshop.

This premiere issue of Zen Doodle Workshop,” says the publisher, “is a magazine dedicated to the art and joy of doodling. Doodling is more than a mindless distraction you do while in a boring meeting, it’s a mindful art form with a limitless array of designs and styles that provide you with a little zen at the same time!”

Zen Doodle Workshop Magazine

Mindfulness has also arrived in the form of various “slow movements.” There’s the art of slow cooking, the art of slow stitching, and the art of slow writing, not to mention books that reflect mindfulness without calling attention to the word:

One hundred years from now, I suspect that the Oxford English Dictionary will describe the evolution of the word mindful as not only the state of being aware—and its relationship to self-actualization, creativity and well-being—but also as a source of income for the publishing industry, on whose doorstep the concept of mindfulness has squarely landed. I’m mindful, of course, that I am one of its consumers!

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jun 262015

Last month I wrote a post about How to re-discover your passion for blogging that helped some of my readers to generate posts for their blogs. It’s a topic worth revisiting, however, especially during the summer, when the sunshine beckons and motivation to write can flag. Even if you choose to spend your time indoors, it’s easy to become distracted by e-mail, an interesting book, a craft project, online shopping or surfing, or just a general feeling that you want to do something else. You can beat the summer blogging blues by checking out the blogging inspiration links below, reading about better blogging practices, and learning how to blog effectively despite the lack of a standard routine.

Blogging Inspiration

Looking for more topics or ideas for your blog beyond the ones provided in How to re-discover your passion for blogging? No problem! Check out the following additional sources of inspiration:

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Better Blogging Practices

Robert Lee Brewer’s eight-part series on better blogging practices began on June 22nd and continues to the end of this month. Robert is the Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Community who writes for the online column There Are No Rules, blogs at Poetic Asides, and has a personal blog titled My Name is Not Bob. If this isn’t enough to pique your interest, his Writer’s Digest profile reads, “Robert Lee Brewer writes, reads, and makes babies.” So far this month, the better blogging series includes the following posts you’ll want to read:

Visit There Are No Rules for the remaining posts in this series.

Another site that provides links to building blocks of a good blog is CoSchedule, which tells its subscribers, “Each week, we strive to give you the Internet’s most actionable content marketing tips for writers, bloggers, and social media marketers.” Especially helpful is its post, How To Write A Blog Post: 5-Point Checklist To Rock The Perfect Post.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Blogging Without a Standard Routine

Is your blogging routine consistent? Do you have a routine? One practice that is useful for all types of bloggers is keeping a blogging planner and editorial calendar. I keep track of post ideas through a blogging planner, and then transfer tentative post titles via narrow sticky notes to an editorial calendar whose blocks are the same width as the notes. This allows me to change the date of the post, or to remove the post and substitute another. The blogging planner I use is from Productive Flourishing, designed by Charlie Gilkey. Each month he releases a new one for free, and you can get it by subscribing to the site. Visit Free Planners to download Charlie’s July Blog Post Planner and Blog Post Calendar, or whatever month of planners is shown, based on when you read this post.

You may find that the simpler the system is, the more likely you will be to use it. CoSchedule has some similar organizational tools in the form of an Ideas Worksheet and Calendar Worksheets that are uncomplicated and work well with a sticky note system. Visit Get Our Free Editorial Templates to download the Ideas Worksheet, Monthly Calendar Worksheet, and Annual Calendar Worksheet. You’ll need to enter your e-mail address, and CoSchedule will send you an e-book with the templates and instructions for how to use them.

What are some other strategies, besides a blogging planner and an editorial calendar, that you should keep in mind if you don’t have a standard routine for writing posts? In Tips for the Writer With No Routine, Erin Entrada Kelly points out, “Some of us are less organized, less tidy. As writers, we are as diverse as our stories.” She says that for her, she equates a rigid writing regimen with worry about the minutes that are ticking away, but when she has something to write (which is frequently), she simply dives in and gets the job done. Erin has some tips for writers who lack a standard routine:

  • Keep writing, even if all you are doing is mulling ideas over in your head. That means keeping your senses open, always being aware of what’s going on around you.
  • Always keep a notebook or journal on or near your person for when inspiration strikes.
  • If you’re not writing, read. The two activities are interrelated and feed each other.
  • Resist the urge to share your ideas with others before you’ve actually written them down. The best way to not write is to talk instead about your ideas.
  • Figure out what works best for you, and stick to it. For every rule that’s out there for how to write, there’s a good reason to break it.
Image courtesy of nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When the weather is nice, do you find yourself avoiding your blog? How do you cope?

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.